We live in a time of technological wonders, but the sort of constant computer use that has become the norm for many of us can take a toll on our bodies. We should all know by now that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to a whole slew of health problems, but there are other elements to consider when setting up a workstation or a home computer to reduce muscle strain, nerve damage and other problems.
Taking a few moments to properly arrange your workstation can save a lot of pain in the long run. It starts with something as simple as a chair—your chair should provide comfortable back support and put you at eye level with your screen. It’s best to be sitting up straight with the back slightly arched. If you’re using a flat-backed chair, try using a cushion or a rolled-up towel to provide extra support to your midback. Feet should rest comfortably flat on the floor. At MCT we spend a lot of time on our computers while talking on the phone; headsets allow you to comfortably do this without stiffening your neck from holding a handset between your head and shoulder.
What’s Your Type?
Keyboards should be roughly at the same level as your elbows to allow you to keep your wrists straight with your forearms parallel to the ground. This will lower the risk of muscle strain and nerve damage. Keep your mouse close to your keyboard (So you aren’t reaching far to get to it) and elevated on a mouse pad.
The Eyes Have It
Have your ever noticed that at the end of a long day of staring at screens your eyes feel dried out, tired, itchy or strained? Many people suffer from headaches, dizziness or muscle twitching and don’t realize that these are symptoms of eye strain, caused by excessive screen time. There are things that can be done to cut down on eye strain, however. Take frequent breaks, get up and walk around, periodically look away from your screen for twenty seconds to allow your eyes time to rest. Apps like F.lux can automatically control your screen’s color warmth, changing your display to be less harsh and disruptive after sunset.
Human Shaped Hardware
For years now there have been ergonomically designed peripherals and input devices on the market. There are a wide variety of keyboard and mouse shapes and sizes available, many that are designed with the aim of reducing strain and nerve damage. The best way to find out what works for you is usually through trial and error. Make some changes to your setup or hardware and assess how you feel at the end of each computer session.
Thinking Outside The Cubical
Some of the most dramatic methods of reducing the negative effects of desk time might involve ditching the desk altogether, or at least changing the way we think about it. Standing desks are becoming more popular and there are many workstations on the market that will change from a sitting to standing workstation at the touch of a button. News-minded readers will likely remember a short but intense burst of popularity for the treadmill desk, which allowed you to log steps on your Fitbit while logging into your email. Voice-to-text applications are also improving all the time and might be a good solution for users who don’t get along well with keyboards.
If you’d like to know more about ergonomics and computer use, the University of Michigan has assembled an excellent guide that is available here. Of course, as with all your technology needs, if you need some help customizing your computer you can always come talk with the friendly staff at Mankato Computer Technology.